Brazzaville is the capital of the Republic of Congo, and serves as the financial and administrative center of the country. It is located on the northern side of the Congo River, directly across from Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Brazzaville was a relatively well-developed and thriving city before the civil war began in 1997. Although there is still some fighting in the rural areas, it is a safe city to visit, but the infrastructure has been run down. Many new restaurants and hotels are being built—especially by Lebanese immigrants—and it can be a pleasant stopover to Pointe Noire or visits to the Congolese rain forests.
- 1 Maya-Maya Airport (BZV IATA). Brazzaville can be reached from Paris by Air France on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There are flights from Johannesburg by South African Airways on Mondays and Thursdays. Brazzaville can also be reached through Ethiopian Airlines from Addis Ababa four times a week; Addis Ababa has connecting flights to numerous other international destinations, including Dubai. Royal Air Maroc operates three direct flights a week from Casablanca. Kenya Airways operates flights to Brazzaville three times a week from Nairobi. If you are a Sky Team associate, you can catch a KLM or Air France flight to Nairobi, and connect to Brazzaville from there. There are also many flights to other smaller capital cities in Africa, including neighbouring Kinshasa.
You can also travel to Brazzaville from Kinshasa via boat, but it is recommended to fly directly into Brazzaville if your intent is to visit the Republic of Congo.
Rail services link Brazzaville with Dolisie and the seaside city of Pointe-Noire. The national operator, CFCO has introduced a new "express" train named La Gazelle; however, it still takes a grueling 15 hours to complete the journey. On the plus side the train has air conditioning, a restaurant car and power sockets. There's also slower services, generally not recommended for tourists. The railway station, 2 Gare de Brazzaville is located at Place de la Liberte.
There is surprisingly no bridge between Brazzaville and Kinshasa. If you wish to take a car across, it is possible to pay extra and get a ride on the ferry. There have been reports the car will require "disinfection" when crossing from Congo to DR Congo.
You may use local green taxis, even if they are in a poor technical condition. Much as you would anywhere, take a security-first approach to taxis - Refuse to hop into any car that has two or more people in it already. One trip anywhere in town is FCFA 1,000.
Being situated on the Congo River, you can quickly get around the city by boat.
- Pégase Congo, ☏ , Pegasecongo14@gmail.com.
- 1 Palais du Peuple. Nice colonial palace built in 1901, today presidential palace.
- Markets of Moungali, Poto-Poto, Bacongo.
- 2 Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza Memorial, ☏ . 09:00-17:00 M-Sa, Closed Su. A marble memorial to this Italian-born French explorer, and a museum tracing the history and culture of the Republic of the Congo.
- Le Palais des Congrès, Avenue Des Armees (across from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The Palace of the Congresses.
- L’Ecole de Peinture de Poto Poto – Poto Poto Painting School
- Les Rapides in Djoué, Ramsar site for endangered birds along the Congo River west of Brazzaville.
- 3 Brazzaville Zoo.
- 4 Basilique Sainte-Anne of the Congo. Built by Roger Erell, 1949, one of the most beautiful modern churches in the world.
- 5 Sacred Heart Cathedral (Cathédrale du Sacré-Cœur de Brazzaville). This Catholic church was constructed by Mr. Augouard and offers views of downtown areas such as Poto Poto and Centreville, and Kinshasa, the capital of DRC across the river.
- 1 Corniche. This is almost like a 'See' listing because you can get pretty wonderful views of Kinshasa across the Congo as well as the new Pont du 15 Août 1960 (Bridge of August 15, 1960), which was opened in 2016, as you are walking along the banks of the river here. This is probably the best place to go walking in fact in Brazzaville, just be careful at night.
If you enjoy outdoor sports, bring equipment that you may need, such as picnic supplies, golf equipment, and sports attire. All equipment available locally is expensive. Photographic equipment and facilities are also available at double U.S. prices. The following clubs and hotels are open to paying memberships:
- 2 Tennis Club (close to roundabout going to Maya Maya Airport). Facilities include 10 clay courts with lights, a squash court, a swimming pool, and a large bar. Balls are supplied free. This club is on the dirt road next to the road leading to the National Stadium.
- 3 Brazzaville Golf Club, ☏ , . The club has a well-kept, nine-hole course (which by clever use of tees converts into an 18-hole course) with sand greens. It is on the grounds of the regional headquarters of the WHO, 20 minutes south from Brazzaville, and has a spectacular view of the Congo River and the rapids.
- Laico Maya-Maya Brazzaville Hotel. Offers monthly subscriptions for use of its tennis courts and pool.
- Olympic Palace Hotel. Offers monthly subscriptions for use of its tennis court and pool. Monthly rates at Olympic are significantly higher than Laico Maya-Maya Brazzaville Hotel.
- The market of Poto Poto is fabulous. This is the West African quarter.
- The Bakongo neighborhood is great for wandering around; at night there are a plethora of plastic-chaired bars and street food to choose from.
Eat at Mami Wata (great pizzas in the afternoon, enjoy the view of Kinshasa over the Congo River) or Nenuphar (great steaks). For Muslims there are very few places to go out for eating like La Mandarine, one of the Lebanese restaurants in the city. On the Avenue Foch are few restaurants and cafes where you can get dinner, snack, coffee. But at all the Lebanese restaurants one can find Halal food.
There are several great restaurants in Brazzaville. Any taxi driver can take you to one of these nicer places (FCFA 5000-15000). Most places are closed on Sundays. Expect beers to be overpriced here (FCFA 1000 to 2000).
- Le Jardin (French) soft bread, lovely t-bone, great outdoor ambiance, sometimes live music first class place
- Mami Wata (Continental) right on the Congo River, US$30 Sunday night buffet, pizza, seafood, pasta, and salad.
- Chef David (There are several in town. This is the best pizza in town, and the best one is near City Center.) They also do carry-out.
- La Mandarine (Lebanese: ice cream! the best patisserie in town. also a great brunch place)
- Noura I and II (Lebanese) Hotel de Ville are. Known for chicken shwarma.
- Le Renouveau at the corner across from the roundabout at Pharmacie Mavre. Serves local, fast food and some grilled dishes. Has a well-stocked small bar inside.
- L'Sympathique (French) down the street from Pharmacie Mavre. Good value, lunch and dinner.
Street food is mostly limited to beignets and manioc in the downtown area. Egg sandwiches, and avocado and salami sandwiches are found at random. At night there is meat on a stick.
- Hippocampe, Across from Radio Congo | Centre Ville. Hippocampe is a welcome alternative. The Vietnamis and some of the local dishes are good and the restaurant is a nice place to read or chat with fellow travelers. Finally, the location is convenient. It serves a good buffet at a reasonable price of FCFA 8000 on Friday and Saturday evenings with a wide variety of dishes.
Beer: Primus, N'Gok, Mutzig, Heineken, Guinness, Turbo King.
- Ram Dam. This nightclub is at Plato next to Nanu Fer restaurant. Cover charge is FCFA 5,000 per person and includes one drink. All drinks, including water, are extremely expensive. Local, French and English music. Opens late.
- 1 Château Rouge, Avenue Foch. Nightclub above the Chinese restaurant called Restaurant de ta Paix in the Hotel de Ville area (on the same street as La Mandarine and Noura restaurants). Cover charge is FCFA 5,000 per person and includes one drink.
- Les Rapides is a bar that any taxi driver would know. It provides a great view of the river, and you can run around in the river if you want.
- 2 No Stress. A lot of foreigners and expats. Most of the taxis will know how to get there but you can always ask for instructions at the reception of your hotel.
Brazzaville is a very very expensive city, as you will find all kinds of things but almost four times the price in Dubai or elsewhere. For example if you are looking to buy a can of Pepsi Cola which is usually 1 UAE dirham in Dubai and you will get it for FCFA 750 (Central African CFA franc) which is equivalent to 5 UAE dirhams. Same goes for other things. So if you are planning to come here, bring usual day to day usage stuff along with you.
There is a huge market close to the Cathedral where one can buy decent African wear and bright colored materials - an adventure in itself.
There are two major grocery stores in Brazzaville, and a few convenience type stores which carry some of the same products. Below is a list of supermarkets and convenience type stores: Casino (used to be Score) is the second largest supermarket after Park N Shop. Everything is overpriced here, but if you need your frozen pizzas. Tel: +242 06 81 03 35. Park N Shop (close to the Mpila roundabout and Tower Nambemba). Tel: +242 06 548 2936 Ste. Regal (close to Park N Shop, on the same street as Tower Nambemba). Tel: +242 06 527 5260
With enough patience, shoppers can usually find most of the brands what they are looking for which they are accustomed.
The major grocery stores and a few other stores have a good selection of imported fruits and vegetables, but prices are a bit expensive. You can get a wide selection of local and fresh fruits from local markets around town. Below is a list of the local markets frequented by Americans and expatriates:
- Marché de la Plaine (around the corner from Casino supermarket). Here you can find a good selection of local fruits and vegetables. Be prepared to bargain for good prices.
- Marché du Plateau (close to BDEAC, across from Nenuphar restaurant). Here you can find some local fruits and vegetables, but you will find a better selection at the Marché de la Plaine. As always, bargaining is a must.
- Total Market (in Bacongo). This is a large local market where you can find a good supply of fruits and vegetables, and local food products at low prices. All prices are fixed and displayed on products, so no need for bargaining.
- Marché de Poto Poto (in Poto Poto). This is the West African part of town.
Butchers and meat storesEdit
There are two good butcher stores in town that sell both local and imported meats and seafood. There are also a few stores that sell frozen meat and seafood.
- Nénu Viande (on the same street as Exotic Palace, close to Park N Shop). This store is run by a French butcher. It has a good selection of local and imported meat, but a limited supply of seafood. Check with the butcher to find out when seafood arrives. It also has an excellent selection of sausages. You can call and place an order for pick up later the same day. Tel: +242 06 81 4659 (general number).
- Casino Supermarket (on the same street as the Brazza mausoleum): the meat section of this grocery store has a good selection of meats and seafood.
'*Guenin or Coup:' Opposite the entrance to the ‘Beach’. Store sells frozen meat, fish, chicken, etc.
Local bread, white and whole wheat, is of good quality. You can buy fresh bread from the following bakeries:
- La Mie Dorée (close to La Mandarine)
- La Mandarine, Avenue Foch
- Casino Bakery (inside the supermarket)
- Boulangerie de la Plaine Ex Leon (down the street and around the corner from Score, next to the Marché de la Plaine fruit and vegetable market)
- Exotic Palace, formerly La Manne (across from Pharmacie Mavre, close to the roundabout)
Bread is cheap and sells out quickly. The best times to shop are between 09:00 and 11:00 on weekdays and between 08:30 and 10:00 on the weekends. However, "street bread" can be found throughout the day for FCFA 100-150. You can also find imported white and whole wheat bread from a few grocery stores, but they are expensive and sell out very quickly.
Small boutiques (mostly run by north Africans) are on every corner. You can find soap, pasta, croissants, basic goods here. They are reasonably priced.
Craft shops and souvenirsEdit
- Marché du Plateau Craft Market (across from Nenuphar restaurant, close to BDEAC). Here you find a selection of crafts, mostly from the neighboring area. Bargaining is a must.
- Tala Na Miso (on the same road as the Marché du Plateau craft market). This store specializes in wood carvings and some brass work. Shop owner gives a good deal if you are a frequent customer.
- Poto Poto Painting School (in the Poto Poto area). Excellent selection of paintings from local artists. School is one of the best places to find local paintings.
- La Paille et La Poutre (across from Park N Shop). This store stocks nice crafts, mostly imported from South Africa. Very expensive, but good quality items.
- Open Air Painting Market (next to the post office). Here you can find paintings by local artists. You can also find copper items and wooden sculptures. Bargaining is a must here.
- Souvenir D’Afrique (a few shops down from Marché du Plateau, on the same road). Here you can find local souvenirs and trinkets.
Olympic Palace Hotel Craft Shop (at Olympic Palace). Here you can find local crafts, but they are very expensive. You can get better prices at the local craft markets listed above.
- Hotel Hippocampe, Rue Behangle, ☏ . Price: FCFA 26,000-36,000/night, depending on the room. Average price for a meal: FCFA 5,000 food + FCFA 2,000 drinks = FCFA 7,000 (€11). Owned by a French-Vietnamese couple. Staff is very nice. Food is good, though most of it is non-Congolese. It has warm water and wireless in some rooms and in the restaurant. Very nice outdoors restaurant.
- 1 Hotel Africa, 41 Rue Kouyou, ☏ . Restaurant/bar, wifi, free breakfast. It kind of looks like a concrete shell surrounded by shanties, but it has great flags out front and a rooftop patio on top, so that's something. Plus, the mid-range price is something to consider in Brazzaville. FCFA 37710.
- Hotel Marina, BP 1947, ☏ . All rooms are of a good standard, double bed TV, mini bar, all en-suite, internet in some rooms (FCFA 2000/hr) but you can also use for free the connection at the "Business center", doesn't compare to Olympic Palace, but much more central and perfectly comfortable, breakfasts are expensive at FCFA 10,000 much rather visit the Manderin near by. Staff don't speak a lot of English so communication can be a problem sometimes. Avoid the hotel restaurant at all costs. Very expensive and their foos quality is average. As in most of the hotels if you are travelling on your own you need to give them a deposit before you get a reservation. FCFA 85,000 for a room.
- Hotel du Boulevard, C.J491-492 V Soprogi Moungali Centre-Ville, ☏ . They have sandwiches too.
- Hotel Saphir, BP 1307, ☏ , email@example.com.
- River Appart Hotel (next to bridge over Djou River), ☏ . Refined place with pool and restaurant with views of the Djoué River.
- Ledger Hotel Maya Maya (formerly Le Meridien Brazzaville), ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. One of the hotels setting the standard in Brazzaville. $148.
- Olympic Palace Hotel, 15 Avenue de l'Amitié B.P.: 1050, ☏ , fax: , email@example.com. The new section of the hotel is the only one in Brazza that keeps westerns standards. The whole hotel one of the best in the town (Air France personnel has moved from Laico to Olympic in last months, so now all the airlines have their air crews there, even the ones landing in Kinshasa, DRDC). The only drawback is the loud music till the morning once a week, when weddings take place. Free internet in the bar for anyone. FCFA 100,000 for old room, 150,000 for new room, 180,000 for double room.
- 2 Mikhael's Hotel, ☏ . An elegant boutique hotel situated in downtown. Within walking distance from the city’s main attractions, ten minutes away from the international Maya Maya Airport, and surrounded by natural richness. Equipped for business conferences and receptions, it is the ideal meeting place for entrepreneurs. $166.
- Radisson Blu M'Bamou Palace Hotel, Brazzaville, Centre-Ville, Corniche, Av. Amilcar Cabral, ☏ . High end, fine views over the Congo River. $196.
- Pointe-Noire — the country's second city and a beach resort, a 15-hour train ride or short flight away at the Atlantic Ocean.
- Kinshasa — the capital of DR Congo is just across the Congo river.